(UPDATED: Nov. 10, 2011; 10:00 a.m.)
Joe Paterno has served as Penn State’s head football coach since 1966. He first started as an assistant with the Nittany Lions in 1950, serving under his former Brown University football coach Rip Engle. Through his 46-year tenure as head coach, Paterno is credited with launching the Penn State football program to national success. Paterno recently notched more victories than any coach in the history of Division I football with 409 wins and has led Penn State to national titles in 1982 and 1986. Sandusky served in his role as defensive coordinator entirely under Paterno’s leadership.
But Paterno faced major fire for his alleged primary role in the abuse scandal. The State College, Pa. legend, affectionately know as JoePa, was reportedly the first to know about the alleged abuse. Graduate assistant Mike McQueary reportedly brought the information directly to Paterno in 2002. The scandal has proven to be the only event that could take Paterno off the field: the storied coach announced on Wednesday, Nov. 9 that he intended to retire at the end of the season. Expressing regret in his retirement announcement, Paterno said, “This is a tragedy. It is one of the great sorrows of my life. With the benefit of hindsight, I wish I had done more.”
But the university’s Board of Trustees wouldn’t allow Paterno to coach the rest of the season with scandal on his shoulders. At an emergency meeting Wednesday evening, they fired the winningest coach in college football history. “What can I say, I’m no longer the coach,” Paterno said bluntly.
Paterno hasn’t been charged, and the grand jury investigation notes that Paterno appropriately reported the abuse to a higher level, alerting Penn State athletic director Tim Curley about the incident. “Joe Paterno was a witness who cooperated and testified before the grand jury,” said Nils Frederiksen, a spokesman for the state attorney general’s office. “He’s not a suspect.” Pennsylvania state Police Commissioner Frank Noonan also said that Paterno fulfilled his legal requirement to report the matter upon referring it to Curley.
His positive impact on the school as a whole is undeniable. “There’s no individual in the entire 120- or 130-year history of the university that has had a greater impact on the institution than Joe Paterno,” Larry Foster, a former Penn State trustee and the alumni association president, told the New York Times in 2004.
Next Tim Curley